How Physical Activity Can Help Reduce Stress

By this point in human research, you don’t need an article telling you that exercise is good for you. With some caveats (i.e. overextending yourself), it’s pretty much a given that exercise is healthy –it’s a premise that everyone accepts. But what isn’t apparent to many people is that there are ancillary benefits involved with physical activity, aside from just physical health. When you engage in physical activity, especially in an encouraging, helpful environment, it can have a lasting, positive impact on your stress levels – and indeed, your mental health in general.

To understand the reasons behind this connection between exercise and stress relief a little better, this article will take a closer look at the processes involved, bothchemical and emotional, and will also offer up suggestions for community-oriented physical activity that could help you blow off some steam.

Chemical Reasons

To understand the chemical reasons for exercise’s stress-relieving benefits, you must first understand endorphins. You’ve probably heard this word before, in conjunction with the word “feel-good” perhaps, but in case you haven’t, here’s a nutshell definition: they are hormones produced by the central nervous system that create a sense of euphoria close to that of opioids. When you exercise, you help your brain bump up its endorphin production, resulting in a rush of good feelings. You may have heard the term “runner’s high”, which is a real phenomenon involving runners feeling overcome (in a good way) by feel-good endorphins.

Meditative Reasons

Left purely to your own devices, you may find yourself falling back into the same thought patterns, like a crutch – although, not a healthy crutch. Inactivity can cause the brain to run a million miles a minute, replaying stresses and dwelling on future works tasks and commitments. If you’ve every kept yourself up at night, you know the feeling! It’s therefore important, if you’re suffering from stress, to try and divert your attention with something engaging and meditative. You could try yoga, group running or you could even go axe throwing with your friends (which has the added benefit of being fun). The point is to find an activity that helps you channel attention towards an activity in the present, and away from dwelling on the past or worrying about the future.

Emotional Reasons

Past the chemical and meditative benefits, exercising can have what this article is calling “emotional benefits”, namely a boost in confidence and a feeling of achievement. While not a physical process, both of these resultant feelings can go a long way towards reducing stress. If you spend all day at your desk, hunched over a computer and eating bad food, you might soon see your self-confidence flag, which is a common source of stress and anxiety for people. Being a part of a team or like-minded group that exercises or engages in physical activity can help you feel as though you are achieving something, fostering a feeling of self-worth and defending against stress.

Community And Stress Relief

Group activities, like leagues or teams, can be a wonderful salve for someone suffering through stress. It doesn’t have to be a traditional “sport” – as mentioned earlier, there are axe throwing leagues out there, who are incredibly supportive of people overcoming anxiety and stress – it just needs to be engaging to you. It just goes to show you that getting exercise and communicating with people needn’t be either tedious or difficult, and that they can have an immediate, positive effect on your mood.

If you are feeling bogged down by workaday stresses, either at work or at home, one of the best things you can do for yourself in engage in physical activity. Boost your feel-good endorphins, take your mind off your worries and improve your self-confidence through achievements. Your body will thank you as well!